On May 4, 1998, Project 985 was initiated by the Chinese government in order to advance the higher education system. In the first phase, the nine universities were selected and allocated funding for an initial period of three years. On October 10, 2009, these nine universities made up the C9 League. The league was attempting to create a group that is pitched as China's equivalence of Ivy League which comprises some of the prominent universities in USA, although it is in fact mainly athletic in nature.
The aim of the C9 is to communicate with each other in order to foster better students and share their resources, including campuses, teachers, and so on. More importantly, they have committed themselves to world-class excellence. The establishment of the C9 League has been welcomed by Chinese public opinion and its central idea of building world-class universities has been well supported by both the government and society. Other universities outside the C9 League designated by the central government with the goal of reaching world class include National University of Defense Technology, Renmin University of China, and Wuhan University.